Renee DeSilva: Member Lessons on Equity & Inclusion

A few months ago, I shared my personal reflections on race and health. I was encouraged by the warm response and since then, the national conversation on diversity, equity, and inclusion has accelerated. The Academy has strived to create opportunities for our members to share success stories, pitfalls, and common challenges. Most recently, I had the chance to engage with CEOs, key physician leaders, and D&I experts across healthcare.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

The CEO owns the Equity Agenda: Executive teams, and especially CEOs, must be bold and willing to lead from the front. Unsurprisingly, organizations further along the D&I journey are led by an unambiguously committed CEO. Common among these leaders is a ‘bias to action,’ which often starts with self-reflection and education on what it means to be actively anti-racist. Carl Armato, President and CEO of Novant Health modeled this when he took 20 senior white male leaders off-line to attend the White Men’s Caucus (check out White Men as Full Diversity Partners before you react to the name). Carl understands that all senior leaders need to be Chief Equity Officers.

Inclusion matters: Executive engagement and strategy alone won’t drive performance. Darin Latimore, M.D., Deputy Dean & Chief Diversity Officer at the Yale School of Medicine said it best, “If your culture is not inclusive, it will eat the best D&I strategy for lunch.” Successful organizations start by investing in and measuring inclusivity and belonging. They work hard to create space where diverse voices can be heard and they acknowledge that D&I is not just a ‘thing’, but rather a way to do all things.

One size does not fit all: Driving strategy and execution depends on the context of your organization, and sometimes, it may feel like the work conflicts with operational priorities. Lisa Gutierrez, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, IU Health, recalled her work in manufacturing that championed Six Sigma methodology, which has a focus on reducing variation. Diversity and inclusion, on the other hand, is designed to draw out the differences that elevate our impact. Lisa tweaked the strategy to align with Six Sigma’s other themes of effectiveness and efficiency. DE&I efforts require leaders to adapt their roll-out to reflect the nuances of their own organization.

In closing, consider this challenge issued last week by Dana Beckton, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Sentara Healthcare to our Physician Leadership Program cohort: Before the end of the year, identify one structural process or policy that works against an inclusive culture. Lean in, build some muscle, and commit to changing that practice.